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Mixing Heaven and Earth

The mixing of heaven and earth is the stuff of our faith. Jesus loved to talk about the ways God’s kingdom could be found on the pages of our daily lives: mustard seeds, branches, water and wine; fields, coins, sheep and farmers… the list could go on forever. Our Creed even declares that in Jesus himself heaven and earth are inexplicably combined. Yet over the years we’ve become pretty good at keeping heaven and earth separate, haven’t we? The very term “religious” betrays the belief that things of faith belong in a category distinct from the things of everyday life.

Perhaps the discommonprayertinction between heaven and earth, sacred and profane, is the reason I sometimes encounter surprised concern when I tell people about our new service at the college, “Pints & Compline.” Pints & Compline is exactly what it sounds like: a bunch of us hanging out at a pub downtown and finishing the evening with a BCP Compline service. It’s wonderful. Why? Probably because, as we sit there together with our empty nacho plates and pint glasses, our thoughts still wandering through theological ideas and university gossip, we get the sense that our faith is the stuff of everyday life. It matters.

It’s become popular of late to talk about “incarnational faith,” a term that, while somewhat ambiguous, tries to get at the importance of mixing things of the spirit with things of the body. And if incarnational faith offends, we shouldn’t be too surprised. It certainly invoked its share of offence in the circles Jesus hung out in! Those who do not share our faith are concerned about a prayer service in the pub because religion should be kept private. Those who do share our faith are concerned that the holy things of God are being degraded when they are taken into such a mundane setting.

But we mainliners- and I must include myself here- seem to have forgotten where Jesus hung out. Jesus loved churches and monasteries, true, but he spent most of his time by the lakeshore and in pubs and grocery stores and youth drop-ins. His goal was to go to where the people were, not to wait until those people came to him. The model of church we’ve developed over the last several hundred years is called “attractional” church and it is not enough for my students. They cannot understand a faith that is kept in tidy little boxes and returned to the shelf every Sunday afternoon.

I believe that what students need- perhaps what we all need- is a faith which mixes heaven and earth. They are looking for the places that the sacred breaks into the profane and they long for a God that shows up in class, on the bus, and even at the nightclub. They call this “authenticity” but it could also just be called honesty. Our faith has real implications for every part of our lives, from relationships and finances to the workplace and vacation time.

I think that people like Pints & Compline because it takes the pressure off to “be religious.” When we repeat together the ancient words of night prayer, there is no pretense, no rules and no pressure; just the normal days of our normal lives walking beside Jesus. And I think Jesus likes the mundane. He did, after all, call it “very good”!

Allison Chubb

About Allison Chubb

Allison Chubb is a chaplain at St. John’s College at the University of Manitoba and a youth coordinator for new Canadians in downtown Winnipeg. She is particularly interested in how youth engage what Robert Webber called “ancient-future worship,” those rituals of old practiced in a postmodern context where a new generation finds itself searching for rootedness. She describes herself as “paid to hang out with God and hang out with people.” On the side she loves to create by cooking, gardening, crafting, and balloon-sculpting.

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12 Responses to Mixing Heaven and Earth

  1. One must be wary of the mixing of heaven and earth on this side of the second coming .We as Christians hold a minute piece of heaven with us which we can try to share the truth with others.But until Christ returns the reality of it will never truly become apparent.The best description of this is found in a letter written around 130 AD in a letter from Mathetes to Diognetus chapter 5 http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/diognetus-roberts.html

  2. I have an awesome chaplain 😀

  3. As an attendee at the Pints & Compline services, I can attest to how great they are! It is powerful to break bread (or nachos) together. These services are an opportunity to get together with other Christians and talk about our lives and our faith openly. This is a safe place be Christian: a precious thing, in a large secular university! Personally, I’ve been slowly discovering which of my classmates are also Christian, and inviting them to join us in this service. So far only one has come, a friend from outside the university, but I think people like being invited.

    All my peers whom I’ve told about about this service are first surprised, and then they think it’s a really cool idea! “Being cool” certainly isn’t the goal here, but I think it’s not such a bad thing if it helps draw people together and towards Christ.

    Lastly, I see pints and compline as not simply for those of us who gather, but as a method of witness and mission. We are a visible presence of Christians in the community, demonstrating ancient forms of worship with our bowed heads and small red prayer books, perhaps providing pub-goers with a brief peek into, or reminder of, our faith.

  4. This seems to be a growing trend among university chapel communities. I know @Megan_Collings-Moore and @FrCliff make good use of alternative gatherings for building community. So. I’ll ask, because I know some are likely wondering: does it augment, or replace traditional worship?

    • Well context is everything. In my mind, our service is primarily a “supplement” and is certainly not a substitute for deep, rich, (traditional even!) Christian community and worship. But for some students, this may be the beginning place. Because the things of faith- like the things of life- are not black and white but messy and unpredictable, there are always exceptions to the rules. But, simply put, the goal is never to replace traditional worship but to reimagine it and expand its breadth.

  5. I think having discussions about Jesus in pubs and such is a great idea but you cross a line when you have a worship service in those surroundings unless you are in a prison as Paul was. God takes worship a lot more seriously then we do and does not tolerate the sacred mixed with the profane. All e have to do is to look at what happened to Nadab and Abihu and Ussah. Of will not honor strange fire.

    • Sorry,that is ‘God will not honor strange fire’

    • What line gets crossed? Oh, and Gromit says hey.

    • Ah, I must disagree. We learn from our Jewish brothers and sisters that with our God there really is no profane. All of creation is sacred and filled with the Spirit of God. Jesus himself mixed with both prostitutes and rabbis, pouring love over both and calling them to worship “in spirit and in truth.”

      • Just because they (Jews) say it does not make it true,again consider again Nadab and Abihu. Again I am not talking about meeting and talking to with people where they are,I am speaking of a time of worship.Worship is primarily for Christians and not non Christians . It is not primarily a evangelistic in nature,not that it can’t be but for followers of christ to exalt his name.

        • David Burrows

          Tony, I take great offense at your words. Worship is not primarily for Christians. Worship is for God. It is we as broken individuals who have marked lines in the sand between culture, race, language, faith, and religion. God cannot have these same lines for through God all was created. Your words do much to break down years of ecumenical and Multi-faith dialogue which Jesus himself affirmed.

  6. Kyle Norman

    I think the important point is intention. If I sit and pray in a coffee shop or pub, does God not hear me because I am outside ‘the church.’ I don’t think so. God hears and responds to my prayers and acts of worship anywhere. If I sit and pray with a friend in a coffee shop or pub, God hears me because they are authentic prayers given from a heart of love and worship.

    So can a community gather and offer prayers together in a pub. I think so – as long as the prayers are about an intentional and honest desire to worship God and connect with him in our lives.

    The danger is when our religious actions become about being seen rather than about worshipping God. If Pints and Compline is a gimmick to be seen and noticed, then I don’t think it’s honest or godly worship. It sounds, however, that this is not the case.

    Of course, the radical thing about this whole things is NOT what it says about the nature of their worship, but how it points us to the nature of ours. Because the danger of P&C’s worship being more about being seen is also a danger that exists when we gather within our hallowed spaces. Just because we kneel in pews and are surrounded by candles and silver doesn’t mean that worship is taking place, or that God is being honoured.

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